East L.A. Chicana Latin/Soul Singer Supreme
by Mark Guerrero
Geree is one of the best, if not the best, Chicana female
vocalists to emerge from the fertile musical landscape of
East L.A. She’s blessed with a world-class voice
and singing talent, and has sung with some of the best musicians
East L.A. has produced from the late 60s to the present.
She recorded and released an album on MCA Records in the early
80s, as well as two CDs for an independent label in the 90s.
In the mid 90s, she played numerous concerts as a featured
vocalist with the legendary Chicano band, El Chicano.
Born Geraldine Juanita Gonzalez,
Geree knew she loved singing since she was four years old.
In her childhood years, she and her family lived in South
Central Los Angeles, which was racially mixed at the time.
In kindergarten, she was singing as part of a group when a
music teacher, Mrs. Orozco, picked her out of the crowd.
Mrs. Orosco told Geree’s mom that singing lessons would
be a good thing for Geree, since she had a gift that should
be developed. Geree’s strict father wasn’t
thrilled about the idea, but allowed her to do it. She
also took piano lessons from the 3rd to the 8th grade.
In her mid-teens, Geree’s family moved to Huntington
Park, a barrio on the Eastside of town, where she attended
high school and belonged to school choirs. She joined
her first rock band at the age of 18, while attending East
L.A. College. It was called That Happy Few, a band that
did Doors covers mixed in with r&b music. She remembers
singing songs by The Supremes, whom she admired. However,
as much as she liked The Supremes, she preferred funkier artists
like Aretha Franklin. Some of her other influences were
Stevie Wonder, Vikki Carr, Edie Gormé, and an incredible singer
named Eva Garza. Eva was a Mexican-American from Texas,
who was a Spanish language singing star. She would come
to L.A. and sing at the Million Dollar Theater, where the
great stars of Latin America would perform. Eva happened
to know Geree’s parents and came over to the house one
day when Geree was still a child. When Eva sang
in the living room, Geree now recalls, “She sang so
great I thought I was gonna die.” Geree also remembers
thinking “that’s what I want to do.”
Geree’s next band was The Village
Callers, a very good, and popular band in East L.A.
She worked a lot with them, including a stint at Disneyland
and a long-term gig at a popular eastside night club called
the Plush Bunny, where she had to use a fake I.D.
since she was under age. She sang mainly r&b songs
and always did her great rendition of the classic Mexican
love ballad, “Sabor a Mi.” By Geree’s
recollection, the members of The Village Callers at the time
were: Adolfo “Fuzzy” Martinez, sax; Manuel Fernandez,
drums; Joe Espinoza, bass; Ernie Hernandez, guitar; and Johnny
Gonzalez, keyboard. They had made several recordings
before Geree joined, including an instrumental that was particularly
popular on the eastside called “Hector,” named
after their manager, Hector Rivera. More significantly,
it is widely believed that The Village Callers recorded a
version of “Evil Ways” before Santana had done
it. After a couple of years, the Village Callers’
original vocalist, Angie Bell, returned and Geree was moved
by the manager to another band called The Organized Set.
With her new band, which had a horn section, she worked eastside
clubs and did a stint at Knott’s Berry Farm, a popular
Orange County amusement park. The Village Callers meanwhile
evolved into Poverty Train and Geree was once again their
vocalist. Two of the members of Poverty Train at this
time were Bobby Figueroa, on drums, and Cecilio Rodriguez,
on guitar. Bobby Figueroa went on to play drums with
the Beach Boys, and Cecilio later gained fame as half of the
folk rock duo Cecilio and Kapono. Poverty Train was
very popular on the eastside, but also toured California,
Alaska, and played a lot in Hawaii. Cecilio fell
in love with the islands and on one of the band’s visits,
decided to stay. Since that’s where he later met
Hawaiian musician Kapono, it turned out to be a fortuitous
decision on his part. While in Hawaii, Poverty Train
became a favorite band of legendary Hawaiian singer Don Ho.
He would often come to hear them play and even hired them
to play for one of his private parties. Don Ho also
once invited Geree up to sing in one of his shows. In
the mid 70s, Geree had a son and didn’t want to tour
anymore. She started playing locally with a band
called Chico, led by former Village Caller, Joe Espinoza.
Joe had inherited the band from it’s original leader,
In 1976, Geree participated on an
historic album recorded in support of Cesar Chavez’
United Farm Workers’ Union (the UFW). Entitled “Si
Se Puede,” it was produced by Art Brambila and released
on the Pan American Record label. “Si Se Puede”
was a phrase used by Cesar Chavez which became the rallying
cry for the UFW. It means “yes we can” and
was the perfect name for the album. The vocalists and
musicians, who donated their time and talents to la causa
(the cause), included Geree (then known as Geri Gonzalez Logan),
Carmen Moreno, Ramon “Tiguere” Rodriguez, Raul
Brambila, Steve and Rudy Salas of Tierra, 4th grade student
Diana Cruz, and the children of Santa Isabel Elementary School.
The singers were backed by Los Lobos (then known as Los Lobos
del Este de Los Angeles); David Hidalgo, Conrad R. Lozano,
Louie Perez, Cesar Rosas, and founding member Frank Gonzalez,
who was no longer with the group when they later made their
major label debut. Other musicians on the album were
Mark Fogelquist, Rudy “Bub” Villa of Tierra, and
Arturo Gerst. Geree provided the lead vocal on the Art
Brambila composition “Mañana Is Now,” and was
part of an ensemble vocal on “No Nos Moveran.”
Although working steadily in clubs,
Geree had a desire to be a recording artist and do an album
of her own. She contacted a producer she had met named
Hadley Morell. He was able to help her secure a deal
with a major label, MCA Records. She recorded an album
of r&b songs that were selected for her by her producer.
According to Geree, the label thought she was a good r&b
singer, but “didn’t sound black enough.”
On the other hand, they thought “she didn’t sound
white enough.” It’s the same old story that
has happened to countless Latino artists, we’re neither
fish nor fowl. Not surprisingly, Geree and MCA parted
ways. Ironically, a year later they signed The Miami
Sound Machine, which was a major breakthrough for Latin pop
music. In the late 90s, Geree had several releases on
a small independent label called Our Town Records. It
was at this point that she decided to use her first name only,
with a different twist on the spelling. She had previously
been know as Geri Gonzalez, Geri Logan, Geri Logan Gonzalez,
and at the time had yet a new married name. To say the
least, it had gotten a little confusing. It was time
to clear the decks and simplify. In 1995, a CD entitled
“Reflections of Love” was released. It’s
a collection of r&b songs, some sung entirely in Spanish.
One of the highlights of the album is a song entitled, “Dame
Tu Amor,” which is a duet with former Tierra lead vocalist,
Steve Salas. Both singers are in top form on the soulful
ballad. The English language version of the same song
appears later on the CD called, “Give a Little Love.”
In 1997, a four song EP was released, which included one of
my songs called, “Mihijita.” It was a song
I had written back in 1979 entiltled “Mihijito,”
about a son thanking his mother for having faith in him.
She feminized the title and the song, a daughter singing to
her mother. It’s a great version of the song and
she did a fantastic vocal. It was a pleasure for me
to hear a different take on my song performed by such a great
singer. “Mihijita” also appeared on her
next album, 1999’s “Through These Eyes,”
which also featured her updated version of the classic song
she had sung since the days of the Village Callers, “Sabor
a Mi.” Geree also has two tracks on a 1998 compilation
CD called the “Chicano Alliance.” Two of
my recordings, “On the Boulevard” and “Rosalie,”
are on the same collection. The two CD set also has
songs by artists such as Malo, El Chicano, Tierra, and her
former band, The Village Callers, whose version of “Evil Ways”
is included. Click here to go to an article on
my website for more info on the Chicano Alliance CD.
Sometime in the mid 90s, Geree came
out to my neck of the woods (Palm Springs) to be part of a
meeting with the aforementioned Steve Salas, George Ochoa
(former lead singer of Yaqui), and me. A Chicano entrepreneur
was trying to put an East L.A. oriented record company together.
(As it turned out, nothing materialized.) After the
meeting, Geree wanted to go to a Karaoke bar. Little
did the other patrons and would-be singers know that professional
singers were amongst them. Steve, whose voice has graced
several hit records, including Tierra’s monster hit
“Together,” got up and sang a song. George
Ochoa, an excellent singer who’s sung lead vocals on
major label releases, also got up and took a turn on the microphone.
Geree went up and decided to sing the beautiful and challenging,
“Alfie,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
She did a magnificent job crooning the song with quality,
subtlety, and nuance, that should have been on national TV,
let alone a karaoke bar. Steve, George and I sat in
stunned disbelief by how great she performed it. It
was so good, we had to laugh about it. The three of
us went up on stage and backed her up on some up tempo r&b
songs and had a good time. I’ve got a photo of
all of us up there on that little Karaoke stage.
Geree’s currently talking about doing some Christian
recordings since she’s been doing a lot of singing in
her church. Whatever she does, I hope to hear more recordings
of her in the future, as well as live performances in venues
appropriate for her talent.
is based on an audiotaped telephone interview by Mark Guerrero
with Geree on April 30, 2002.
After having a band called Smooth for several years in the
early 2000s, Geree has a new band called Geree and the Groove.
Members of the band include Moses Hauffen on guitar and vocals;
Roberto Seja on keyboards, harmonica and vocals; Rudy Garcia
on bass; and Eddie Hernandez on drums. In 2006, Geree was a guest on my internet radio show, "Chicano
Music Chronicles." I interviewed her about her
music and we played recordings from throughout her career.
The show is archived on my website to hear at your convenience.
A high speed internet connection is recommended. Click
here to get to the page.